Are Electric Pickups a Viable Competitor to Gas?

Part of our series, “Under the Frunk: Lifting the Lid on Common EV Questions”

Key points

  • The F-150 Lightning's electric platform outperforms traditional gas trucks in terms of power, thanks to instant power delivery and high torque
  • Electric pickups have fewer components prone to failure, resulting in fewer maintenance requirements and lower long-term costs
  • The Lightning offers enhanced ease of use with features like a front trunk (frunk) for tool storage, ProPower outlets in the bed, and a quieter cab environment

Ford's introduction of the F-150 Lightning, an all-electric variant of its iconic F-150, has caused quite a stir in the automotive world. As curiosity abounds, many are eager to understand how this electric powerhouse measures up against its traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) counterpart.

Concerns about power, reliability, ease of use, and range often arise in discussions comparing the two types of vehicles. Let’s explore these concerns and demonstrate how electric vehicle (EV) pickups can hold their own against their ICE counterparts by shedding light on the Lightning's advantages while addressing common apprehensions.

Power: The Electric Advantage

When it comes to generating power, traditional gas engines rely on a more complex process than electric ones.

A gas engine takes a throttle input to determine the fuel and air mixture required for combustion. This combustion moves a piston that then turns a crank. The energy is then transferred to a transmission, which may change gears or prepare for acceleration. From there, it goes through multiple gears, an output shaft, a transfer case, more gears, a driveline, the rear-end differential, axle shafts, and finally to the hubs attached to the tires, causing them to spin and move forward.

In an EV, the throttle input is transmitted through electronic control modules (ECMs) and body control modules (BCMs) to an AC motor connected to the wheel hub via a short CV axle or by direct bolt-on. There's no need for multiple gears and transmission systems, resulting in minimal power loss. The instantaneous power delivery of EVs eliminates the concept of power bands and the need to wait for a turbo to spool up. The consistent power supply makes EVs especially adept at handling challenging situations, such as towing up a mountain pass.

To illustrate the power difference, let's compare the Ford F-150 Lightning Extended Range, an EV pickup, with two traditional F-150 models:

  • Lightning Extended Range: 580 horsepower & 775 lb.-ft torque
  • F-150 5.0L V8: 400 horsepower & 410 lb.-ft torque
  • F-150 3.5L Twin Turbo V6: 400 horsepower & 500 lb.-ft torque

With approximately 180 more horsepower and an impressive addition of 275-365 lb.-ft of torque, the difference is substantial. Plus, considering the instant power delivery of the EV platform, it becomes nearly unbeatable, particularly in a competition between two factory OEM vehicles.

Reliability: Simplicity in Hardware

Some people worry about the complexity of working on EVs compared to gas vehicles. However, considering the specialized tools, scanners, and model-specific equipment required for conventional vehicles, the gap between the two isn't as significant as it may seem.

Even for gas-powered vehicles, repairs often require dealership visits or specialized knowledge. Fleet managers, for instance, face the challenge of training their workers to keep up with evolving powertrain technologies. Similarly, sending vehicles to the dealership is a common practice, further diminishing the perceived difference between maintaining an EV and a traditional pickup.

After overcoming the fear of computers, which are present in all modern vehicles, what remains in an EV to maintain? Let's refer to Ford's recommended service intervals for the F-150 Lightning:

  • Every 36 months: Brake Hydraulic System Drain, Refill & Bleed
  • Every 120 months or 150,000 miles: Transmission Fluid Drain & Refill
  • Every 20,000 miles: Cabin Air Filter Replacement
  • Every 12 months or 10,000 miles: Brake Line Inspect, Brake Linings Inspect, Brake Rotor Inspect, CV Joint Boot Inspect, Hybrid Inverter Coolant Level Inspect, Parking Brake Inspection, Steering Linkage Inspect, Suspension Ball Joint Inspect, Suspension System Inspect, Tie Rod Inspect, Tire & Wheel Assembly Inspect, and Tire Rotation

Is this all that might break? Certainly not! There will always be occasional issues and problematic vehicles. However, the reliability of EVs is on par with or even exceeds that of traditional pickups, which is important when factoring in the total cost of ownership (TCO) and vehicle uptime.

See the difference in maintenance requirements between the gas-powered and all-electric F-150 pickup:

Ease of Use: Convenience and Advanced Features

EV pickups offer several advantages that enhance ease of use and convenience, catering to the needs of both professionals and everyday users. Let's examine some notable features of the Ford F150 Lightning that exemplify this:

Frunk: The Lightning's front trunk, or "frunk," eliminates the need for a separate toolbox. Tools can be stored more stealthily in a waterproof space, and the frunk even provides outlets for charging battery-powered equipment. This allows a user to take advantage of all their bed space. Additionally, the frunk offers a drain plug for easy cleaning of work boots, dirty tools, and anything else a user can think of.

ProPower Outlets: The Lightning features power outlets in the bed, allowing users to connect various tools directly to the truck, reducing demand for a separate generator. From welders to power tools, the ProPower's 120 and 240V outlets offer flexibility and convenience, enabling users to work efficiently at job sites.

Interior Comfort: The Lightning boasts a quieter cabin compared to gas pickups, approximately 20-30 decibels quieter, creating a more pleasant environment for phone calls or long drives. The Blue Cruise self-driving feature enhances safety, while advanced safety features like Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Assist, Front Impact Sensors, and 360-degree cameras provide additional peace of mind.

Performance and Handling: The Lightning's all-wheel drive (AWD) system, balanced weight distribution, and independent rear suspension contribute to an exceptional and comfortable ride offroad and better control on paved and gravel roads. It also has a rear E-Locker for extra traction in challenging situations. Plus, the payload capacity of 2,000 lbs and a towing capacity of 10,000 lbs permit instant power and torque, ensuring you can still handle heavy loads effectively.

By combining practical features, superior performance, and innovative technologies, EV pickups offer a user-friendly experience that matches or surpasses traditional pickups.

EV pickups have the potential to be strong competitors to their ICE counterparts. The advantages of instant power delivery, reliability through simplified hardware, and ease of use make EVs a compelling choice for individuals and fleet managers. As the market continues to evolve, we expect further advancements and improvements in EV technology, solidifying their position as an exceptional alternative to traditional pickups.


Are EV pickups more powerful than traditional pickups?

EV pickups generally outperform traditional pickups in terms of power. The instant power delivery of electric motors and high torque capabilities make EV pickups exceptionally powerful.

Can EV pickups be as reliable as traditional pickups?

Absolutely. Once the initial challenges associated with new powertrain technologies are overcome, EV pickups can offer comparable or even superior reliability to traditional pickups. The simplified hardware and reliance on well-established components contribute to their overall reliability.

Do EV pickups have practical features for everyday use?

Yes, they come equipped with various practical features like frunks for extra storage, built-in power outlets in the bed for powering tools, quieter cabins for improved comfort, and advanced safety features. Additionally, EV pickups can match or exceed the towing and payload capacities of traditional pickups.

Are EV pickups easy to maintain?

Maintaining an EV pickup is different, and it's overall easier and lower cost. While there are unique aspects to consider, such as periodic battery maintenance and specialized training for technicians, routine maintenance requirements are often similar to traditional pickups. Steering and suspension components will still have to be greased, tires will have to be rotated, and the limited number of fluids will need to be checked periodically, but no longer do you have to worry about valve train issues, slipping bearings, breaking cranks, serpentine belts blowing, or even a leaky rear main seal.

Can EV pickups handle challenging terrain and tasks?

EV pickups are designed to handle challenging terrain and demanding tasks. With features like all-wheel drive, independent rear suspension, and impressive towing and payload capacities, EV pickups offer capabilities that greatly surpass those of traditional pickups.

What if I am not a Ford person?

Electric pickups are either for sale or nearing launch from many other manufacturers including Rivian, General Motors / Chevrolet, Tesla, and more.

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